You can download the Maundy Thursday order of service here: Maundy Thursday 2020
Maundy Thursday reflection 2020
I was asked at a conference last year “What does your church do well?” Without hesitation I said: Food. I was thinking of the sumptuous lunches, buffets, Seda Meal, Harvest Suppers, breakfasts and BBQ lunches that I have had the pleasure of attending within the Benefice. Even now just thinking about it makes me feel hungry and gets me thinking about what sort of food orientated celebration we might have once we can get back into our church buildings.
Table fellowship is a marked feature of Christ’s ministry and of Christian life. In Jesus’ day, it mattered terribly what and with whom you ate, as well as the methods and rituals of preparation of food and self. There were no restaurants or drive-thrus, not even the supermarket deli counter. (To say nothing of individual, microwave, so-called “TV” dinners.) Sharing food was serious social interaction.
As we celebrate Maundy Thursday, we come upon another dinner scene. The disciples are gathered with Jesus for a feast. He has seen to the preparations (even though he himself was not the one spending all day in the kitchen). He has brought them together for a meal as he had done so often. The occasion bears the weight of religious tradition. We will never be sure whether it was a special meal just before the Passover, as in John, or the Passover meal itself, as in the other Gospels. But we know that those gathered share deep spiritual convictions and traditions. They have also shared their lives over a period of years. Yet even now, they both know and do not know one another. Like many of the other meals they’ve shared, this one has its jarring aspect. In this case it is not a criticism of pharisees and religious leaders, but it is something and someone closer to home; Jesus spoke of being betrayed by someone eating with them. The awkward moment passed, but its effect lingered. That sort of thing happens at family gatherings, someone makes a remark that is met by a deafening silence. This meal Jesus was sharing with his close friends was peppered with just such moments: Jesus spoke cryptically about betrayal and
darkness and about serving each other. He identified himself with the meal he was serving. “This is my body, my blood.” And afterward, just as odd, he insisted on washing their feet. All the while he was talking, almost rambling really, but so urgently; like he was trying to get across some really important point; like it was crucial that they “get it.” It was all about vines and branches, and coming and going and the world and the Father ( I in you as the Father is in me) and about love–a lot about love.
The strange thing about having our church buildings shut is that we now return to celebrating the “Last Supper” in its original domestic setting; at home. Jesus gathers us again in our homes.
Maundy Thursday is full of religious significance and tradition. It is usually a time when we come together to share deep convictions. The meal (be it the Seder meal or the meal of the Eucharist) is familiar, its identification with Jesus is established. As we enter into the story, the action, we know where it is going. We’ve been and will go to the Garden; we’ve been and will go to the Cross; we’ve been and will go to the Tomb on Easter morning. This year we will have to do this within the context of our social isolation and not as a family in our parish churches. Despite this let us look forward to a time when we can truly come together and participate in the sacrament of a shared meal that has the risen Jesus at its centre. But in the meantime, we can still celebrate and share what Jesus was trying to teach his disciples at the first Last Supper. The teaching about serving, about presence, and absence, about isolation and community, about
the world and how God wants the best for us.
Revd Geoffrey Clement, April 2020